FICTION: THE LAST RESORT
The moons were particularly beautiful the night of the murder, they sparkled as they had not done in months. The misty veil that had swathed them previously had completely departed leaving them difficult to comfortably view with the naked eye. Gazing blinkingly at them I had no idea that this peaceful scene would soon be disrupted and transformed into a chaos of fear, panic and unbridled anger.
The sirens heralded all that was to come. The long wail that signified the warning to all that danger was present and to be vigilant. I clicked on the wallscreen and viewed its news. The Chinese ambassador to Resort had been murdered in his bed. An investigation had been speedily organized and was now underway.
I sighed, realizing my infrequent effort to relax my brain by coming here was over. Down on Newhome I had taken such few breaks during the crisis there that I had almost completely burned out. Now the turmoil had followed me here.
Soon the gyrocopters were overhead, beating down the vegetation and causing what had been a reasonably calm sea to lash its spray up into the low gravity sky. Both strident and clearly scared voices could now be heard very close to my chalet. This was the end of what had been till now an immensely satisfying break from the geopolitical mayhem going on down below. It had all been so different as I arrived…
I walked through the timescreen with a little trepidation. It was my first time offworld and as often as I had heard reassurances that it was a cakewalk it still made me nervous. Deconstituting my body then reconstituting it elsewhere was no small matter it seemed to me, if you will pardon the pun. The process, so they told me, had been perfected over the previous decade. Gone were the days of items transferred arriving as assortments of goo or something akin to abstract art. Though it was true that after Dave Fullbright transported successfully for the first time that there had been the need for bionic repair now and then there had been no such occasion in recent years.
The glow was only a few nanoseconds long and I could still feel the hand on my back that gave me the final impulse to enter. All I saw then was green, a deep, supposedly relaxing, green. I saw this through my eyelids, you understand, I was obeying my instructions precisely. A studiously calming voice told me to take one step forward which I did. Suddenly I was very aware of my nakedness and I’m sure I must have blushed profusely. But I needn’t have. As I received my instruction to open my eyes all I saw was my ‘Welcome to Resort’ robe, hanging in the air awaiting me.
The reception at Resort brings arrivals stage to stage from the palpitating shock of his or her transfer state to a condition of meditative relaxation via essential oil fragrance, light body massage and warm towels with constant reassurance applied. It was all part of the service and naturally included within the enormous cost.
It felt good to be extricated from the soon to be war down below. All the travails of Earth had travelled with the new population and in archetypal form they now initiated their divisive command over humans who had hoped for something better. Resort was an escape from all that. But only a temporary escape. And, supposedly Resort was the totally safe retreat where the tensions built up in near-exhausted executive brains could be dissipated in a stress-free environment of zero fear, and total relaxation.
Gracious smiles greeted me in the central court. Peers of mine, most of whom I only knew onscreen now appeared to greet me in person. The touch of hands was rare now and I thrilled at the novelty of that sensation. Since the pandemics of the 21st century such touching had almost become forbidden. The near wipeout of half Earth’s population by Covid-20 only a few years later after the multiple variants of Covid-19 created it had made it virtually taboo for all but the most adamant of risk-takers. Here, in the antiseptic environment of Resort all fear of contamination absented itself. So many procedures creating an antiseptic germ and bacteria-free area obviated all need for fear.
Handshakes led to hugs. Smiles led to the relief of laughter… and all seemed well. For that joyous time of initial escape at least. And I made the most of it. My jaw ached from so much smiling, smiling that had almost become alien to me in recent years.
The absence of the usual milling masses of Old Earth, as it was affectionately known, produced a brief hiatus of the pain that had been suffered by almost every family there. Half of humanity was gone, wrenched so quickly from their loved ones after infection. The speed with which we died after becoming infected had for most a paralyzing effect. A fatalism swept over most of mankind. Though others were spurred into immediate action.
It was no time for universal compassion and all that could be done was to say a prayer for the lost as those who were to be saved were notified and gathered together. We had learned how to organize others during Covid-19 and knew that only coordinated state action as evidenced by China could save humanity now. Even so, the vast majority that would be saved were Chinese, such was the efficiency, access to required technologies and ultra-highly coordinated action required. Newhome was 72% populated by those of Han Chinese and the many ethnic minorities of China. 17% originated in North America. The remaining 11% were from all other nations of our home planet.
All would potentially have been as well as could be expected after the immense trauma experienced if Newhome had meant a truly new beginning for humanity. Alas, it was not to be.
The contingent from North America consisted primarily in its elites. A few everyday citizens had found their way to be included by some manner of means, but they were few indeed. The USA had brought those of its population with the most exceptionalist mindset possible to Newhome. And they believed it was they who should be in command there.
The Chinese had set about acting as they had at home, delivering better conditions to the entire population if possible. However, the U.S. contingent insisted that only their system of governance would be tolerated on Newhome. Thus, from very near the outset, there was conflict. The Chinese being overwhelmingly dominant in terms of numbers began to put in place the organizational structures they considered most appropriate. Increasingly those of the USA disagreed and over time began to disagree violently. They could not conceive of a reality whereby any form of communism could be tolerated. Thus the terrorism that would lead to the edge of all-out war began to start.
I sat in my lounge wondering what was going to happen now. The murder of the ambassador had struck directly at the heart of all that Resort was mean to represent. This was meant to be a refuge from the madness down below. Now that madness was right here among us.
I thought about exiting my chalet and seeing what others were saying and doing but looking out my window I saw no one venturing into any common space I could see. On my wallscreen there was little information and every announcement merely called for everyone to stay where they were and keep calm.
Eventually, I had enough of waiting and stepped out of my front door onto my veranda. At first, I just sat down on one of the wicker chairs there. (Though the gravity was low everything inanimate was well fixed to terra firma.) I surveyed the scene. The noise from the gyrocopters was much fainter now and the voices I had heard earlier had subsided. The scene I viewed was relatively calm. The sky above was azure as usual, the palms swayed in the light, warm breeze as usual. Nothing seemed particularly out of the ordinary.
It was as I was sitting there that the initial explosion took place. An eruption of flame and smoke rose to my far left. I felt the shock wave some second or so later. My spirits, already low, plummeted. But I was not going to simply sit here and await my fate. I began to run toward the central complex.
No one else seemed to be moving from wherever they cowered in undoubted fear. Blinds were down in the chalets I passed. Nothing moved but the wind, a wind that appeared to be increasing I thought.
I reached Central within a minute or two. Mayhem was taking place there and I stopped and stared for a moment. I ran then to the reception area and found one person still holding his position.
“What in hell’s name is going on?”
“Down there and now up here.”
I stared at him in disbelief. After all that mankind has been through, now this? But of course, I could not truly be surprised. It had all been on the cards for so long now, back on Old Earth and later on Newhome. I had been heavily involved in trying to bridge the gap between the U.S. contingent and the Chinese but the elites of the U.S. were utterly immovable in their consideration that only their form of governance was acceptable and that all others were intolerable. It was only ever going to lead to this. The determination that only their way was acceptable was not negotiable and there was nothing they would refrain from doing to achieve their goal.
“It’s madness,” I said it, though I knew such observations did nothing to help or explain what was happening. Simply more useless words agreed upon by those helpless to make any change.
“It’s a fight to the death,” he replied.
“Nothing can be done but wait for it to be over. One way or another. And try to keep safe.”
Another explosion rocked us as we stood there. It cast a red glow for a moment overhead. We scattered in separate directions, me for the entrance I had recently come through. It was at that point the lights went out.
I made it to the exit and emerged into a smoke-filled night where screams were heard in each direction. I then ran in the direction of the gyroport which I recalled seeing as part of my introductory tour. When I got there I saw a blackened mess, both on the ground and in the air where black acrid smoke plumed from wreckage below. Bodies littered the entire area.
I looked around me. Where to go?
All I could think of was to spin around looking for a patch of sky close to the ground that was clear. Toward the northwest, I saw such a spot and began running as fast as possible toward it.
I reached a cliff overlooking a small bay with large rocks protruding from the sea all around. I scrambled down into a small gully and then toward the rocks. Wading through shallow water I reached one of the largest, climbed it and sat, wet, panting and shaking with fear.
My heart was still pounding a few moments later when a cataclysmic explosion shook me and all around me, even the rock I sat on shuddered and the water below. The wave of energy that then passed over me was hot and I feared I had been badly burned.
I began moving through the near-death emotions toward total acceptance. I was no longer in fear. I was ready for what came next.
But then there was only silence.
I looked up at the stars. I looked toward Resort’s two moons. And I began to weep inconsolable tears.
It has come to this. All the struggles of humankind for millennia. All the hard work of the majority of humankind to support and safeguard themselves and their families. The sacrifices made, the torments endured, all the wars initiated by those who ruled them and who they paid the price for. It all ended like this. As it was always going to if those who ruled acted only in selfish self-interest and egotistical ambition.
I looked then toward Newhome and in my mind, I also looked toward Old Earth. My heart was empty of all emotion except an interminable sadness. Newhome now cast a red light, very similar to that of the red planet, Mars. Mars the planet of war. How appropriate it all was.
How tragically appropriate and as it seemed to me then... almost fated to be.
It was happily not fated to be the end however.
Ultimately the terrorist forces of the United States were defeated by force of numbers. In due course, they were made to transfer from Newhome to their own version of home where they could dominate themselves as they saw fit. Newhome would be reconstituted and arranged to be a cooperative union of peoples dedicated to the universal benefit of all, no matter how diverse in their ethnicity they may be.
At last, the elite fight to the death over humanity was finally over.
I stayed a day or two on Resort but only as long as I had to. I was eager to join all others down on our renewed home and do all I could to help. My heart, which had fallen into the farthest depth of despondence now pounded with hope.
It was time to meet the challenges facing us truly together… and for the very first time.